Admittedly, I paid money to gawk at the pandas at the Taipei Zoo in August. The pandas are hardly the most exciting creatures to watch, and I would trade a few minutes with the monkeys for a trek through the panda’s glass enclosure anytime. But, obviously, considering how empty the park was that day, I am one of the few tourists willing to pay for the privilege of witnessing diplomacy in action.
It was four years ago this month that the Annexation Lardbombs exploded at the Taipei Zoo. They were delivered on Dec 23, 2008, and went on display a month later, to a brief flurry of absolute madness. Profoundly political and not the least bit a demonstration of goodwill, they were handled as a “domestic transfer” under CITES, one of the many quiet ways that the Ma government has capitulated to Beijing, as my round-up post above notes. They were named “Reunification” in Chinese. The Zoo’s annual budget for them was over a million US$, and it wasted $10 million US on the enclosure for them
Essentially officials were predicting a doubling of attendance thanks to the presence of two furred machines for turning bamboo into shit. The exact opposite actually happened.
How long did the craze last?
The major portion of panda-money’em lasted through May, with another small bump in the summer. After that, it was business as usual, with attendance figures in the excellent fall weather actually below those of the same time the previous year. The pandas are an expensive failure. I hope the next DPP president has the stones to send them back and spend the money on the popular Formosan Bears and other less political creatures.
Actually, both my wife and I liked these Antarctic immigrants more.